Let the People Decide

By Sen. Emanuel Jones and Rep. Roberta Abdul-Salaam
ATLANTA (July 15, 2010) – The future of Metro Atlanta’s economic vitality is on a perilous tipping point.  Already this year, Georgia has lost billions of dollars in federal funding for transportation while other states to our north and south received money to grow and strengthen their infrastructure.  Clayton County is a crucial part of the Metro Atlanta region and lost its only means of regular mass transit in March.  The legislature passed House Bill (HB) 1393, which allows for an immediate funding source to save C-TRAN.  The legislature also acted this year to pass HB 277, a transportation funding package that will set this region and Georgia on the right track for stability and economic recovery.  HB 1393 is also embedded in HB 277, which paved the way for the Clayton County Commission to restore the C-TRAN public transit service and become a member of the regional transportation authority. 

Unfortunately, the Clayton County commissioners continue to make excuses for not putting a non-binding referendum on the July 20 ballot, letting citizens vote on a 1 percent sales tax to fund C-TRAN.  The Clayton County Commission has had the authority all along to put a non-binding referendum on the ballot without the legislature’s approval.  Now Clayton’s commissioners have the opportunity to put a binding referendum on the November ballot.  If voters approve a non-binding referendum, the commission is not obligated to abide by their wishes.  By doing so, they are essentially telling voters they don’t care what they think.  They’re teasing citizens with a straw poll when voters want a real solution.  By passing a non-binding resolution, they are taking the choice out of the voters’ hands. 

There is no greater investment someone can make than in their own community.  Allowing voters to approve a dedicated source for transportation funding puts Clayton County back in the driver’s seat.  If Clayton voters approve the 1 percent sales tax, they will also be voting in favor of the county joining MARTA and receiving the subsequent benefits.  This gives the county a head start once the transportation funding package comes up for a vote in 2012.  Clayton will already have its transit infrastructure back in place and will be ready to move forward.  The legislation is designed to build regional cooperation so that all metro counties will be paying in the same amount of money, while others may receive reciprocal benefits. 

This will enhance the quality of life for every citizen who relies on public transit to get to work, school, the doctor, and for any other daily activity.  Transportation is what connects business and labor.  Transit is a crucial component to any successful economy, and Clayton is a perfect example.  Restoring C-TRAN and expanding transit will create a multiplier effect of growing jobs by putting people back to work, attracting businesses to relocate or expand, raising home values, increasing tourism and bringing people to the state.  This vote is too crucial for the Clayton County commissioners to roadblock legislation that will enhance transportation in the county and revitalize Clayton’s economy.  Without funding, we leave systems like Clayton County teetering on the brink of failure. 
Earlier this year, Clayton County commissioners passed a resolution asking for the legislature to introduce a bill to fund public transit in the county.  The legislature followed through on their request, giving the county a method to fund transit.  Now it’s the commission’s turn to hold up their end of the deal, and let the people of Clayton County vote on the legislation they requested.   As elected officials, we work for the people, not ourselves.  It’s time for the Clayton County commissioners to stop making excuses and put the choice back in the hands of the voters.  We get it, the state gets it, and the feds get it.  Why don’t the Clayton County commissioners get it?  

Sen. Emanuel Jones represents the 10th Senate District, which includes portions of DeKalb and Henry counties.  He may be reached at 404.656.0502 or via e-mail at emanuel.jones@senate.ga.gov.

Rep. Roberta Abdul-Salaam represents the 74th House District, which includes portions of Clayton and Fayette counties.  She may be reached at 404.656.0325 or via e-mail at roberta.abdul-salaam@house.ga.gov

For Immediate Release:
July 15, 2010
For Information Contact:
Raegan Weber, Director
Kallarin Richards, Senior Communications Specialist